Analysis of travel app ecosystem benchmarks quality across 31 brands
ARC, an offshoot of Applause that specializes in the app economy, has taken a first-time look at the travel app ecosystem to benchmark 31 of the top travel brands according to consumer reviews and ratings.
The methodology includes a mix of objective and subjective, as the researchers selected the top 49 travel brands according to industry analysis, tracking and revenue.
From there, any brand that offered more than one app was whittled down to just the most important flagship app. Brands without a mobile app were excluded, given the scope of the report. From there, the firm’s Applause Analytics was used to analyze ratings and reviews from app stores to deliver an app quality score.
After analyzing consumer comments, apps were rated on a 0-100 scale that pegs consumer sentiment towards the travel app:
- Poor: 0 to 39 (apps with which customers are disappointed)
- Fair: 40 to 59 (apps customers tolerate because they serve a purpose)
- Good: 60 to 69 (apps that customers like)
- Excellent: 70 to 89 (apps that customers love)
- Winning: 90 to 100 (apps that win customers’ applause)
Out of the 31 travel brands that qualified, the mix was across five industry sectors, which each exhibited overarching quality characteristics:
The highest performers are travel booking apps, which is sensible given that these apps live and die by a user experience that encourages ease-of-use and bookings. Cruise apps are less-reliant on the immediate booking, and more about managing a reservation or discovery. Car rental apps are also low-scorers, which is surprising as many business travelers use these apps in transit. Airlines are not to much better, only scoring an average of 33 – another area for improvement in the eyes of app users.
The highest performing airline on the sentiment side was Alaska Airlines – by nearly double the next competitor, which was a tie between Delta and United. Following up form there is JetBlue, American, Southwest, US Airways and Frontier.
Sentiment can be skewed by users leaving reviews related to service issues – say taking to the App Store to complain about a cancelled flight with a one star review – so it’s important to consider the various ways that consumers use reviews and ratings.
Nonetheless, Alaska’s customer satisfaction rate is generally high, which is mirrored in the results here.
The top ranked apps on the travel booking front were Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Kayak. It’s also important to recognize the correlation between reviews and rankings – the brands with higher review counts generally performed better on the quality ranking than those that had fewer reviews.
Hotels have an opportunity to deliver serious value-adds via branded apps – for example, Starwood’s reveal this week of keyless entry via its own app. Having a high-quality app is essential to be able to deliver these tech-enhanced amenities, while also offering merchandising opportunities while a guest is on-property.
Car rental companies performed poorly in this analysis, with National breaking away and having the most positive reviews. However, while this was the case for booking apps, review count wasn’t correlated with quality score. Car rental companies should take note of this performance!
As far as approaches to improve rankings, ARC recommends the following:
- Re-focus on the customer experience and be sure that the app matches the customer needs.
- Do a competitive analysis and identify areas for improvement within the comp set.
- Test apps in the real world and get actual customer feedback out in the wild.
- Expand development and testing to include usability, security, performance and localization to ensure that a “good” app moves up into an “excellent” app.
- Build an intuitive, engaging interface.
- Look to the future to identify features that consumers will soon expect and start building a roadmap to get there.
- Solicit more reviews, and make it simple for happy users to share their experience. Listen to unhappy users, and act on valid feedback immediately.
NB: #1 sign courtesy Shutterstock.
Nick Vivion is a writer and strategist. He was a Tnooz reporter and global events lead between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and was recently AVP Operations, North America, at Zomato.